I'm often asked how to experience God on a regular basis. I do believe there's an answer, but it's not a simple one.
There's a phenomenal opportunity available to every legitimate follower of Jesus: an indescribable and life-rocking encounter with an invisible, all-powerful Deity. Sadly so few do what's necessary to live in this realm where the Holy Spirit reveals his shock and awe to the children of God.
It seems so many are satisfied living a typical, logical life in the natural realm. The idea that we can be overwhelmed by a Spirit and experience unimaginable manifestations that only exist beyond where our eyes and ears can discern is silliness to them. Twilight Zone. X-Files. Science fiction.
Yet, to others, it's not far-reaching at all. They yearn to meet God in this place but they don't know how to get there. It's those hungry people I'd like to try to encourage.
THE RECIPE FOR ENCOUNTER
RAW, RISKY BELIEF
5 …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 (ESV)
Intellectualism may be the greatest killer of faith and supernatural encounter among those who are truly living for the Lord. Their left-brained approach to invisible and mystical realities rarely works. When it does, you usually have to take the long way around.
My passion is for God to encounter me in ways my natural, logical, intellectual capacities could never predict, gauge or moderate. The moment I limit this to my own understanding or my careful analysis is the moment I've diminished my hope of moving into that spiritual realm that exists beyond what can be grasped.
The “I have to see it to believe it” mantra doesn't work in a “walk by faith, not by sight” Kingdom. Having to understand it before seeing it doesn't usually work very well either.
Of course, I'm not proposing a renunciation of the pursuit of understanding. However, when logical understanding must come first, before the other-worldly revelation that God wants us to experience, we short circuit the supernatural happenings.
While many would argue that seeing is believing, for Christians the opposite is true. Believing is seeing…and encountering, and being shocked by the fire and power of the Holy Spirit!
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
I'll never forget the night many years ago that changed my life. I witnessed God doing remarkable things in the lives of some of my friends. These seemingly normal American guys who were grunting on the basketball court and staying up to all hours playing video games were also undone by an unseen force. I'd watch them weeping in prayer, pacing the church and crying out to God for him to move. These people had tapped into something that I convinced wasn't invented. It wasn't fake. It was real and I had to meet God they way they had.
Alone one night, I paced around the youth room of the church, feeling nothing but desperation. I prayed a simple prayer, the only one I could. “God, you know my heart.” That's it. Over and over I was talking to God using those words, revealing the depths of my hunger in a simple statement. God knew how deeply I desired to know him.
The rest is history. My eternity has forever been altered by that simple yet overwhelming prayer. Shortly after, he flooded into my life in a way that could never be described by using human words, though I'll try. Extreme boldness replaced timidity in a split second. A tangible force shook my being. Passion for Jesus was instantaneous. There was a power source connected to me and I was radiating with fire.
I didn't seek to understand what I was pursuing. I was simply desperate. Hungry. Willing to surrender all. In fact, I told God in the days preceding this momentous experience that I didn't want anything to do with him if he “wasn't all that he was cracked up to be.” I wasn't interested in fairy tales or following some religious icon who didn't heal, couldn't deliver and wasn't omnipotent, good and alive. However, I also said, “But if you are all of this, I will die for you.”
While an initial encounter may not require a disciplined life of intercession, I've discovered that a regular, continual encounter with Jesus absolutely does. It's in the place of fervent, fiery prayer, especially praying in tongues, where the presence of God is constant, and very often extremely intense.
Some may wonder why it's so important to contend for encounter. They may see it as unnecessary and possibly even evidence of an imbalanced or immature person, someone who is driven by emotions or strange, mystical rushes of adrenaline. Oh my, this couldn't be further from the truth. Encounter is absolutely necessary for every blood-bought Christian.
As we walk in great faith and hunger with great desperation, the cries of our heart and the intercession of the Holy Spirit through us will launch us into the place where God can be clearly heard. We can discern his heart. He can reveal mysteries to us. Critical information, some of life and death, is transmitted to us through impressions, dreams, visions or other prophetic means. Simply, if we aren't living in encounter, we are tragically limited to our own understanding, the very understanding the Bible instructs us not to lean on.
But, as we pray in the Spirit, everything changes. The heavens open. God's voice resounds. An inner tremble shakes within. Our daily lives become adventures as God takes the reigns and gives us direction that can only be received via the Spirit.
God resists the proud. This is why I firmly believe the gateway to deeper levels in the Spirit includes many opportunities for humiliation.
I'll never forget meeting a young lady at an event who was a part of another church. She told me she so wanted to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but had no idea how to do so. She was unpretentious and authentic as she shared her expectancy for what was going to happen at the worship conference we all converged at in Los Angeles.
I don't have space to explain what happened the next night other than to say, this hungry young lady was suddenly, without warning, flopping all over the ground as strange and wonderful new sounds were exploding from her mouth. God's activity in that moment hit her and many others, including myself. I was suddenly on the floor experiencing an extremely weighty manifestation of God's glory that wouldn't dissipate until the next day. The presence of God in that moment was something I can still remember, though it's been over twenty years since it happened.
Humility caused this young lady to dismiss how she might look to the hundreds of people all around as supernatural God invaded her natural self. She wanted God. She was hungry at a level few experience. She was filled.
If you think a very Holy Spirit is going to brood over you and manifest in and through you as you are living an unholy life, you have been terribly deceived. Holiness is absolutely mandatory if we have any hope of God moving remarkably in our lives. This is such common sense, yet so many Christians can't understand why they aren't being consumed by God's Holy Spirit.
You simply cannot watch movies, TV and other media that contains foul language, nudity, coarse joking and other immorality and think you are a candidate for encounter. You are kidding yourself. In fact, why would you want the Holy Spirit if that's your chosen lifestyle? You are only inviting conviction if not judgment.
I encourage everybody to eliminate all secular music and listen to nothing but anointed worship music. I even suggest doing away with most contemporary Christian music and pumping music through their headphones that carries the unusual fire and glory of God.
Those who have taken me up on this, time after time, experience dramatic breakthrough. Those who don't tend to trend downwards.
14 …For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV)
Possibly the quickest shortcut to living a life of dramatic, supernatural encounter with God is to sign up as a martyr.
We are called to die daily, to take up our crosses and to love life not unto death. This is our portion as Christians. The key moment in my personal life came shortly after my initial encounter I described above. Do you remember that I told God I'd die for him? He was listening.
From my article Risks of the Upcoming Presence Movement:
One night my life changed forever. In the midst of my amazing daily encounters with Jesus, I found myself in a prayer room at a youth lock-in in Dayton, Ohio. While 300 students were playing volleyball and basketball I was alone in a dark, glorious room overlooking the skyline of the city. God was waiting for me when I waked in.
I paced around praying and worshiping as the presence of God swirled all around me. I never wanted to leave.
Suddenly, as I was enjoying God, walking back and forth in his manifest presence, I heard a voice, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
I was irritated. My focus on loving Jesus was interrupted by someone with what felt like a terribly different agenda. Little did I know, it was an agenda to grow me up and gauge my devotion.
I shook off that distracting voice, and attempted to enter back into the glory realm. I prayed and worshiped, but the presence of God was completely gone—or so I thought.
Again I heard, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Though I clearly understood I was being asked to give my life for Jesus, my emotions were negative. I was distraught, irritated, lonely and even afraid. My enjoyment was gone. However, what I didn’t realize was this—my feelings were not sufficient to analyze the situation. God’s presence had actually increased exponentially in that room of destiny, not dissipated. The fearful judge had arrived and he meant business.
Though I tried to enter back into worship again, it was futile. I heard the voice one more time, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Finally, in a state of lonely desperation, I realized I couldn’t live my life without the fire of Jesus burning within me. I needed him. I wanted him, even if it meant the loss of my physical life.
Understand, I was convinced that I was going to physically die that night. It was very real to me.
I told God, “I can’t live without you. If my death will result in the advance of your Kingdom, I give you permission to take my life tonight.”
The moment I said that, his manifest glory flooded the room about one hundred times greater than I had experienced it before. I had experienced the glory and the severity of God, and I was forever changed.
ZEAL FOR THE WORD OF GOD
As I reveal the final ingredient of the secret sauce of encounter, I can feel the naysayers breathing down my neck right now. They are riled up at the thought of focusing on the experiential, on the suggestion that faith trumps logic, on the mystical, invisible and on what they would call hyper-Charismatic fluff.
I'll try to put them at ease. Nothing I am proposing can defy Scriptural truth. If there's ever a contradiction, it must be eliminated. This means that we must be students of the Word. There should be a burning zeal in us for the powerful, eternal and non-negotiable truths of Scripture.
However, while many would hold up the giant family Bible in the air as a defense against the supposed superstition that I'm dealing with here, true Bereans will excitedly search the Word to see what powerful revelations it holds.
From my article What To Do When We Hear Rumors Of Revival:
11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. Luke 24:11-12 (ESV)
Belief and expectancy will result in running as a result of any news that God has moved with great passion. Doubt will always result in resistance, staying away and embracing suspicion.
I often hear about the concept of being a Berean from some who may be considered heresy hunters. Those who are deeply suspicious of any report of a fresh move of God often attempt to disguise their unbelief and mocking spirit with a religious cloak. They say, I’m just being a Berean.
People driven by a false Berean attitude hear a report of a possible revival or outpouring and their immediate response is to discredit it. They pull out scriptures that supposedly renounce any new move of God and declare the participants to be misguided at best, heretics at worst. Others may take a less direct approach by holding back, waiting to see if it passes muster.
That, my friend, is not being a Berean.
I agree that we must be based on the Word of God more intentionally than ever in history. There is too much foolishness out there today in the name of revival. The answer is a people who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and firmly grounded as students in the Bible.
However, I don’t agree that our immediate response to a potential fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God should be suspicion! This attitude can affect even the most godly of people. It’s all too easy to immediately doubt that such a move could be anything more than overreaching hope, hype or sensationalism.
I propose we all have the heart of a true Berean.
Before the stop at Berea, Paul preached about a powerful fresh move of God at Thessalonica. I believe heresy hunters are actually more like the Thessalonians than the Bereans:
2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Acts 17:2-7 (ESV)
There was an urgent and immediate rejection of the report of resurrection power. Let’s contrast this with the pure hearts of the Bereans:
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Acts 17:10-13 (ESV)
This is a powerful passage of scripture!
The Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonica. This is an important point! Why were they more noble? When they heard the report of a powerful, transforming, new move of God that would change everything in their lives, they received the word with all eagerness!
Their response was not scrutiny, unbelief, jealousy or resistance. They were excited to hear the news! They were so impacted by the potential of such a report that they immediately dove into the Word with the hope of confirming—not disproving—the life altering revelation!
But then, in verse 13, we see the unrelenting Thessalonians actually traveling to Berea to gather people to them in opposition to what God was doing there.
I hope you are truly ready for revival. This is what it looks like. The resistors will show up in force.
The question that needs to be answered is, which camp will you be in? Are you a scrutinizing Thessalonian or an eager Berean?
Satan has a plan to infiltrate and defile the modern worship movement.
Theologians believe that Lucifer was the worship leader in heaven, in the very presence of God. He was exceedingly beautiful and endowed with special abilities. As we see in the passage from Isaiah 14, Lucifer looked upon his own beauty and wisdom – attributes created in him by the Lord – and he decided that he would raise his throne above God. He foolishly declared, “I will make myself like the Most High.” ~CBN
Luciferianism is a belief system that venerates the essential characteristics that are affixed to Lucifer. The tradition, influenced by Gnosticism, usually reveres Lucifer not as the devil, but as a liberator, a guardian or guiding spirit or even the true god as opposed to Jehovah. For Luciferians, enlightenment is the ultimate goal. ~Wikipedia
As one who lives much of my life with headphones on, including as I write this article, with anointed worship music being pumped into my spirit night and day, this is a challenging message to deliver. It’s challenging due to the fact that I highly revere the anointing that rests on so much of today’s and yesterday’s worship music. It disturbs me that such an article would even be necessary. The obvious argument would highlight the overt evil, immorality and demonic culture we live in, and the filth in media that results. The argument would declare it’s highly inappropriate to attack music that, in comparison, should be celebrated.
I concur that the majority of music and media today is offensive and a stench in the nostrils of God. I also agree that we must encourage all to flood their lives with truly anointed media including worship music. For years, my prescription for people who have come to me confessing struggle in their walk with God was to eliminate all media for a season that was not explicitly anointed, worshipful and godly. In fact, I’d go so far as to ask them to consider turning off even contemporary Christian music (or whatever else they enjoyed) and take in a steady diet of Vineyard (my favorite back in the day) or other worship music for a month.
Without fail, those who took me up on my experiment reported powerful breakthrough while those who did not continued to struggle. Worship music anointed by the Holy Spirit is more powerful than we might realize. So is music that’s anointed by Lucifer.
A recent, related article that I wrote for Charisma Media has been shared over 50 thousand times from their site alone. Worship Leaders Must Take a Stand Against Homosexuality addresses the need for holiness in worship leaders, and it was a call for them to make a vocal stand in opposition to the spirit of the age. Why is this important? Because the theological and moral positions of our worship leaders will directly impact the advance of revival and the Kingdom. Additionally, the enemy, just as he did in the very beginning, is looking to seduce today’s spiritual generation by subtly twisting worship music just enough so that it takes on his anointing instead of God’s.
THREE WAYS LUCIFER CAN INFILTRATE WORSHIP MUSIC
Many people wrongly believe that the worship leader’s theology is unimportant. The train of thought is that the Senior Pastor is the gatekeeper regarding theology in the local church and the worship leader plays a lesser, supporting role. All we have to do is jump back a bunch of years to see that the Great Gatekeeper, God himself, was assaulted and his mission was radically damaged.
“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. Those who see you will gaze at you. They will ponder over you, saying, ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a wilderness and overthrew its cities, who did not allow his prisoners to go home?'” (Isaiah 14:12-18)
Lucifer, the worship leader, was not unified with God and truth was violated. God himself couldn’t (or didn’t) stop what happened next:
- One third of the angels fell with Lucifer.
- Countless millions of humans will burn in the Hell that was made for him after he was cast out of Heaven.
Bad theology in your worship leader can easily lead to many others in the church succumbing to the deception.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. (Ezekiel 28:17)
The mix of pride and beauty can be extremely seductive. I think we’d all admit there are worship leaders we absolutely love. Their music, their stage presence, their passion is all extremely attractive. For those who are truly humble and godly, there is nothing wrong with that. However, for those who embrace theologies and belief systems that are unbiblical, their anointing will remain—but the source of the anointing will change. The music, stage presence and passion will be as compelling as ever, but the truth will not be what is driving their worship. Bad doctrine compromises anointing.
You would be shocked at how many worship leaders (and pastors for that matter) affirm the grisly act of abortion. Others have been conditioned by false-grace doctrines, supposed “gay Christianity,” prosperity, me-centered theologies and other beliefs.
For many, the goal of a worship experience is enlightenment. To tap into another realm and experience the supernatural isn’t bad. It’s good, as long as it’s the right realm. Unfortunately, too many simply want the high regardless of just what anointing exists there. This is Lucifer’s goal. Seduce with enlightenment and trap people with what the biblically compromised worship leader is offering.
They retain their “beauty,” the enlightenment is powerful and their attraction is intense. However, their anointing can be very dangerous indeed.
TWO: Secret Life
Worship leading should not be the primary job description of worship leaders. It should be the natural outflow of a life of intense, continual prayer. Praying in the spirit night and day must be job one for all of us, and especially those who are supposing to lead us into an encounter with a holy God.
It should be obvious that we cannot lead people where we have not gone. I propose many of today’s worship leaders are simply pointing people to the holy place instead of going ahead of them and leading them there.
One of my favorite takeaways from my time at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City was the worship culture. Every day, the worship teams spent hours in the prayer room, praying, studying the Word, pacing around the room crying out to God, and only then would they take the stage. Only then would they truly have something to offer. Only then could they hope to lead people into the encounter they just had with God. The result is powerful, often spontaneous songs that are deep and spiritual alive instead of the karaoke worship we are all so used to.
On the contrary, so many of Sunday morning’s worship leaders and musicians are taking the stage after possibly saying a quick, casual prayer together, and often after spending many prayerless days. Many are coming off a Saturday night that was filled with unholy media and movies. Others are secretly struggling with sins—while others aren’t struggling at all. They are embracing a sinful lifestyle wholeheartedly.
Decades later, I’m still shocked at the times early in my Christian walk when I witnessed worship leaders, pastors and others in the church casually enjoying vile, R-rated movies or listening to music that is unholy. They’d fill their lives with the pleasure of the day, every single day, and then sing and preach in God’s house of prayer. My spirit is sickened.
Sadly, the church has become so desensitized that we can’t tell when the anointing has departed.
The secret lives of worship leaders absolutely can result in Ichabod being hung above the doorposts of the church.
And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured… (1 Sam 4:21)
Do we even understand the cost involved in hosting the ark of God today?
Does anybody else notice the trend in worship music toward the glorification of man?
Benefits, our position, our experience…shouted in song after song.
We need to get back to God-centered lyrics that proclaim his goodness!
- “We exalt thee! We exalt thee! We exalt thee, oh Lord!”
- “All hail the power of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.”
- “Blessing and honor, glory and power
Be unto the Ancient of Days
From every nation, all of creation,
Bow before the Ancient of Days
Every tongue in heaven and earth shall declare Your glory
Every knee shall bow at your throne in worship
You will be exalted O God
And Your kingdom shall not pass away
O Ancient of Days”
- “Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”
Friend, it’s not about us! It’s not about our benefits! It’s not even as much about how much God loves us as it is about how much we love him!
Imagine writing a love song for your spouse, and then passionately singing it to them. Imagine the lyrics were all about how much he or she loves you instead of how deeply you are in love with them. That would be bizarre! We need to exalt God a lot more than we do celebrating his love for us.
It is becoming more and more common to hear worship lyrics (and contemporary Christian music lyrics) that are either wishy-washy and watered down or simply not biblical at all.
LET’S INITIATE A TRUE WORSHIP MOVEMENT
There is a true worship movement that emphasizes our death and exalts God that will shake the foundations of the earth!
As we live lives of humility, deep prayer and holiness, the music that comes out of this movement will cause demons to flee!
Worship leaders, I plead with you, don’t allow your beauty and your passion to lead the people God has given you to serve. Lead from your knees, from the prayer room, from that secret place of intercession. Only then will you have what is necessary to set the captives free and introduce a troubled and demon-assaulted generation to the love and power of a holy God!
And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him. (1 Sam 16:23)
Watch: Find freedom from fear as you launch out into a life of powerful faith!
Ten Threats to Revival Part 11 – Unbelief
You can do this! You are called to live a ridiculously supernatural life!
You must believe! Go after the impossible! Be like Noah and live in such a way that causes people to mock!!!! You are called to live a miraculous life!
Understand that most people will not believe. In order to be in the mix of the end-time revival, you must have great faith. The more we pray, the more we believe. The more we hear his word, the more faith! Faith comes by hearing!
If we don't believe, this results in a life on hold and revival cannot flow through us. Faith results in action that will shake the nations. You are called to be a giant in the faith!
Luke 18:7-8 (ESV) 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Watch Ten Threats to Revival Part 3–A Belief in Fate
TEN THREATS TO REVIVAL PART 3 – A BELIEF IN FATE
The second threat to revival is a belief in fate. Do you presume that an outpouring is coming simply because there has been prophecy about it or because hunger is increasing in a region? That is not enough.
The call is to be consumed with Jesus and his passion to see a revived church. Every day our predominant focus must be fire on the Earth. Anything less puts revival at risk.
I never thought a simple comment would result in such a reaction.
“I give myself an 80% chance of making Heaven.”
There it is. A clear and simple comment that has provoked people into honest pondering at the least and vicious personal assaults at the worst.
Before I continue, allow me to provide some context. This message is intended for those who believe that a Christian can lose their salvation. We have to have a common starting point. Those who subscribe to the doctrine of eternal security (once saved, always saved) will certainly be at least intrigued by this article, but many of their arguments will be unaddressed. I’m not going to attempt to debate their position in full here, but I am going to present what I hope to be a clear breakdown of why I am so convinced of my perspective.
My estimation is that I will spend eternity with Jesus, but it is not a guarantee. If it was, I would, by definition, be an adherent to the doctrine of eternal security. I am not.
Simply, if you don’t believe in eternal security, that means that every current Christian will have an opportunity to lose their salvation—to turn from Jesus. And, no current Christian would ever presume that they would do such a thing, but nonetheless many certainly will.
Why would we be immune from that temptation while multitudes of other Christians are not? I definitely am not immune.
Mat 24:21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
Many current lovers of Jesus will be deceived (even the elect) by extremely convincing yet false moves that have the name of Jesus attached directly to them.
1 Tim 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…
Those who are currently in the faith are at risk. I am currently in the faith. I am at risk.
I and others more scholarly than myself have written on the dangerous false/hyper/unbiblical grace doctrines that are on the rise. You can read my previous articles to gain a better understanding of the theology here:
The reason I need to briefly address unbiblical grace in this article is to highlight a common thread that is woven through both of these talking points.
There seems to be an increasing desperation with people who are convinced that they simply cannot experience freedom from sin. Their last hope is a theology that overlooks their overpowering inclination to repeated failure. So, any teaching contrary to a quasi-universalistic viewpoint becomes a threat to their hope of eternal security.
I am absolutely sympathetic to those who are in bondage to sin. It breaks my heart that they are living in struggle and torment most every day of their lives and I am devoted to seeing them find radical, complete liberation!
The answer, however, is not unbiblical grace that would simply overlook repeated, intentional sin, but rather, true grace that actually gives supernatural power to be free from sin!
It’s from this place that I understand that I cannot continue in intentional sin and hope to live forever with Jesus. I will have many opportunities to live in sin, to intentionally gossip, lust, hate, to refuse to forgive, to lose my love. I, John Burton, must die daily, must take up my cross and must allow God to continually reveal the issues of my heart so I can turn, change and fall deeper and deeper in love with Jesus. If I don’t, I can presume that my name will be blotted out of the book of life.
Rev 3:5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
It’s simple. Pressure to turn from Jesus is only going to increase as the end draws near, and it will be so severe that many will turn from Jesus to avoid persecution and death. Imagine living during the Tribulation without the ability to buy, sell or trade. If we don’t take the mark we will have no access to medical care, food, communication tools, or much of anything else. Imagine what that will be like when Christians will have to move out of their homes because their bank accounts are closed. They can’t rush an injured child to the emergency room. They will lose everything including all natural hopes for survival. Will the pressure be high to take the mark, to turn on Jesus? Absolutely—and it’s fairly easy to presume that most will bow to that pressure. Will I? From a place of comfort it’s easy to say I won’t. It’s from a place of wisdom, however, that I must more carefully analyze that sobering question. Yes, I will be at risk of bowing.
With such a provocative statement it’s easy to make incorrect presumptions about what I really mean and what has driven me to that conclusion. I will address some of these here.
I’m confident that if I died TODAY that I’d be with Jesus forever.
I believe we absolutely can have a certain measure of confidence in our position in Christ. We are saved by the grace of God. The power of the blood of Christ is indescribable and I am fully dependent on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. As I respond to his gift and live in repentance, from a place of loving surrender and intimacy with him I know he has me. He’s mine and I’m his. If I died today, I’m quite confident I’d be welcomed into glorious eternity.
What I am not sure of (as nobody can be) is what decisions I will make TOMORROW. My very strong free will will always provide me the opportunity to lose my love, to fall into sin and to become lukewarm.
Rev 3:15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
It must be said that tomorrow can come very quickly, and my reaction to the drawing of the Spirit of God today is critical. I know that I can slip into a state of presumption, convinced that all is well when actually I have compromised my position in Christ.
See how the passage in Revelation chapter three continues:
Rev 3:17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
If you jump back to the beginning of the chapter you’ll see this:
Rev 3:1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
Am I, John Burton, somehow exempt from the fate that so many other current Christians will suffer due to their continued sin? Absolutely not. It would be quite arrogant to say that I, John Burton, don’t have to repent, can continue in sin, can fall asleep, can become lukewarm at some point in the future and will not suffer the consequences. There will be a great falling away, and I must stay alert to avoid becoming a part of that tragically massive group of people.
So, my life is focused on staying awake and strengthening what remains—and alerting others to do the same. The resulting passionate life for Jesus is well worth the internal introspection!
I don’t believe that one sin in the life of a Christian will automatically send you to Hell.
God loves us. He understands that we are in a process of sanctification and some failure is to be expected.
It’s our reaction to that failure that is so important. The Bible is a story of redemption and it should go without saying that we can fail and then embrace redemption, forgiveness and enjoy the hope of the prodigal.
However, if we choose to continue in sin, without repentance, without turning from darkness to Jesus, we absolutely are at risk of Hell. The Bible makes it so clear that it’s shocking that it’s even debated.
Heb 10:26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The answer? Live a life of wonderful, joyful repentance. Run into the arms of our Father at the point of failure. Repent. Turn. Fall in love with him again and enjoy a glorious forgiveness and a refreshed relationship with God.
I do believe we don’t ever have to sin again.
One of the reasons unbiblical grace is so popular is because so many Christians presume that we are all expected to sin every day. How tragic a theology that must be to live out!
We are no longer sinners. We are saints. True grace is so powerful that it enables us to live free from sin! If we sin every day, we have a sin problem and we should certainly be shocked into reality.
Of course, there’s a famous verse that’s pulled out in support of the idea that we are all continuing in sin:
John 8:7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.
So, the argument is that we are all with sin. The problem with that argument? Jesus followed up the analysis of the situation with a command that could only be obeyed via the grace (power) of God:
John 8:10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Sin no more. Don’t sin again. Stop sinning. That was the message.
It was clear that Jesus expected this woman to live free from sin, and certainly from a life of daily sin!
Often when I state that we don’t have to ever sin again I receive a snarky comment in response: “So, how’s that working out for you, John?”
That reply exposes the condition of the person’s heart and reveals the point I’m trying to make. People feel hopeless against the power of sin and are attempting to use grace to cover it instead of eradicate it. This belief is tragic—and dangerous. It moves us quite close to a fearful judgment:
Heb 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
I don’t live my life in fear of Hell.
The most common presumption that people have about me when they hear me say that I am not convinced I’ll end up in Heaven is that I must be living in great fear. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I am full of joy and am experiencing an abundant life in Jesus! Check this out:
1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
There is no fear in love. There are many who “got saved” to avoid torment in Hell. That is their motivation and their theology is keenly focused on the eradication of any threat of eternal torment. Though I have had an encounter with Hell, and I understand to a very small degree the horror associated with that place, I would never attempt to use God to avoid it. God isn’t one to be used for our own selfish pursuits. God is to be loved with immeasurable passion!
Let’s continue reading the passage in 1 John 4:
1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
It’s not a theology of eternal security that casts out fear, it’s love. And, this is where it gets a bit more serious. It’s possible to subscribe to a theology that ensures our salvation while also hating someone—and go to Hell.
So, my focus isn’t on avoiding Hell. I’m not living in torment. If I were, I’d know that love was not being perfected in my life and I would certainly have cause for concern. My barometer is the manifestation of love in my life. My daily goal and continual desire is to be with Jesus in a place of joyful, love driven encounter. I crave his presence. I yearn for a deeper intimacy with him. I am free, alive and thankful for what Jesus has done for me. I have no fear. But I am sober. I am alert.
I don’t believe it’s easy to lose your salvation.
For those who are truly saved, who have put their faith in Jesus and are following him, I believe it takes quite a set of circumstances to lose that salvation.
Remember, it’s intentional, continual sin that does not result in repentance the will eventually result in separation from Jesus. If we are actively wrestling with our flesh, dying daily, growing in sanctification and trusting in God’s justification, we are in a very good place!
However, if we refuse to repent and live a life of sin, no matter how insignificant that sin may seem to be, we should be very alarmed.
Again, the Bible is a book about redemption. We can look at the lives of many godly people who failed miserably yet are still considered giants of the faith. Their common thread? They turned back to God.
Acts 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,' forgive him.”
Rev 2:5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
2 Pet3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
I do understand the miraculous, glorious work of the cross.
One accusation that I’ve heard is that I am lacking in revelation of just how comprehensive and powerful and conclusive the work of the cross is in the lives of Christians.
I won’t pretend to have a perfect revelation, but this accusation couldn’t be further from the truth.
Check out the doxology in Jude:
Jude 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
God is great! He is able to keep us from stumbling—but only if we are in agreement with it. If we choose to stumble of our own volition, we absolutely will.
The power of the blood of Jesus is worthy study and we will be growing in understanding of it for all of eternity. We have truly been set free from the penalty of sin and sin itself! We can be free, joyful, prosperous, empowered and abounding in love every moment of our lives!
The issue isn’t a lack of revelation of God’s greatness, it’s an overestimate of mankind’s devotion. I know God loves me, but do I love him? Will I be at the foot of the glorious cross when the pressure is high or will I run? Will there be a better offer, like thirty pieces of silver in a financially trying time? These are the questions that I keep in front of me as I grow in love and revelation of the power of the cross of Jesus Christ.
I do believe we must stay awake, pray and watch.
The key reason I believe we must see the prayer movement escalate, and contend for every Christian to become invested in continual prayer is that the temptation to fall will be overwhelming as the end draws near.
Mat 26:40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The command is to watch and pray so that we may not enter into temptation. Just what temptation was Jesus referring to? Notice who he was talking to. He was telling Peter to stay awake, to watch, to pray, because his flesh would certainly give in to the temptation that was coming very soon—the temptation to deny Christ.
He slept and he sinned.
Rev 3:1 “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die.This the warning for casual, sleepy Christians today.
I was watching a TV show called They Shouldn’t Be Alive. It’s a series of survival stories that depict various adventures that should have ended in death—but somehow did not.
This particular episode told the story of a man who was canoeing alone down a river through the Grand Canyon. His boat overturned and he lost it and all of his supplies. He was cold and wet and the temperatures were quickly plummeting under the night sky. He was able to build a fire and he warmed himself as he sat under a massive cliff. He had no way of escape and his only hope was to survive the night.
The Holy Spirit got my attention as the narrator said, “If he falls asleep, and the fire goes out, he dies.”
This is the story of today’s church.
It is shocking to me how many supposed Spirit-filled Christians are actually coming out against the prayer movement. They make statements like, “While you are hiding away behind the four walls of the church I’m out evangelizing the lost.” I would be the first to argue that winning souls is a primary mandate for the church—and it’s funny when people presume I would believe any other way. However, I don’t believe we’ll have anything to offer other than religion and false hope to desperate sinners if we aren’t bathed in a lifestyle of never ending prayer.
Mat 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
We are commanded to go behind closed doors and pray. This is where the term prayer closet originated.
Simply, if someone isn’t active in continual prayer they won’t be of much value in the work of the Kingdom. They will be at risk of sleep and spiritual death. They will attempt to move in the flesh when a discerning spirit is what is required.
Mat 26:50 Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.
Peter famously did what a sleeping, spiritually dull person would do—he reacted in the natural. He was aggressive and instant in action. He was protecting Jesus. Yet, he was wrong. This was the beginning of a great fall for Peter and it came due to many reasons, none greater than his prayerless, sleepy lifestyle.
Will I ever be tempted to stop watching, to fall asleep and to fall into temptation. Of course. And, as the end draws nearer the pressure to do so will only increase.
I don’t believe the state of our position in Christ is a mystery.
One of the questions I always have when someone struggles with this statement, that I give myself an 80% chance of making Heaven, is this: why not just live a life of joyful repentance?
We don’t have to worry and wonder whether we are in a good place with Jesus or not. If we sin, we repent. Period. It’s extremely simple.
We shouldn’t have to struggle with this at all. I don’t. If I sin, I repent. That being the case, why would I presume there is still a chance I can go to Hell? It’s also simple: there may come a day that I lose faith and refuse to repent—and continue in intentional rebellion to the point where my name is blotted out of the book of life.
Mat 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
And, there it is. When unparalleled tribulation, trial, murders and mass hatred comes to the church (it already has in other nations in a significant measure) many in the church will be offended. Betrayal, hatred and lawlessness will come and then love will grow cold. Cold love is the key to eternal separation from God.
In the face of such a great assault, there will be some who endure—and those are the ones who will be saved. Will I be a part of that remnant group? I don’t know. God’s pulling for me. But, it’s fully up to me.
I want to encourage you to read my book The Terror of Hell. This is the awakening that caused me to take my salvation very seriously. I had an encounter with the forces of Hell, and God spoke very clearly to me afterwards: John, many current Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.”
Discover four powerful keys to experiencing an explosion of truth in your life!
All too often I run into some amazing Christian people who are standing strong and pressing in, but also experiencing frustration at the lack of impact the Word of God has in their lives.
God’s Word is a burning, exploding, penetrating and living message that should cause us to collapse to the ground while trembling—yet that is rarely the experience for so many discouraged people of God.
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me… Revelation 1:12
…I fell at his feet as though dead… Revelation 1:17
I know it’s popular today to attempt to read the Bible through in a year. Kudos to all who accomplish this!
I’d like to offer an alternate option: read a portion of a verse for a month. If we can speed through verses, chapters and books without being overwhelmed by the searing revelation, we need to slow down. Read one verse and let it rock you to the core.
For example, you could take the next month and let the first half of Revelation 1:10 provoke you:
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day… Revelation 1:10
What does that portion of a single verse do to you? Oh, to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day! We could spend hours crying out to God on that topic alone! Hours can turn to days as we break and repent for times we might have grieved the Holy Spirit. A holy hunger to never leave that supernatural realm would then begin to overtake us and our entire lives would shift for eternity! A fraction of a verse can, and should, do that!
Then, the next month can be devoted to the rest of the verse:
…and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet Revelation 1:10
My spirit jumps at the mere thought of such an experience!
A zealous determination to hear the voice of the Living God will consume us as we, after the previous month’s revelation, are trembling in the Spirit of the Almighty!
The Word of God, the Bible, is most certainly a living message that should take us to our knees in extreme passion! Sadly, for most, it rarely does.
Four Powerful Keys
1. REALLY BELIEVE IT.
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. 1 Thessalonians 2:13
It’s at work in you who believe. Or, another way to say it: we must believe what we are reading for it to work.
Before I lose you, I know, of course, that we as Christians clearly affirm a belief in the Bible. The problem is that we are kidding ourselves. True belief is rare in today’s church.
Have you ever considered why so many messages on love, for example, have to be preached from the pulpit? So many don’t really believe that God loves them. They aren’t convinced.
There have been seasons where I have hit hard on the issues of holiness, repentance, the fear of the Lord and eternity. It never fails that someone submits a request for me to balance out the subject matter with teachings that focus mostly on God’s love. Of course, it’s true that the topic of love is inexhaustible, but that’s not the underlying argument. The reality they are communicating is that the discussion of God’s severity threatens their weak grasp on God’s love. They don’t believe God loves them—even though the Bible states it clearly, continually from cover to cover!
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love… 1 John 4:16
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
You see, if we really believed that God loved us, we would never be phased by other difficult truths.
It would behoove us to be settled on truths that God’s Word is settled on. We simply must believe the Bible!
When we believe the Bible, literally, everything changes. We will never be able to casually breeze through the pages of our Bible again!
Passages that previously bored us will ignite us! Just take a moment, grab your Bible, and open it up. Read. Believe. Let the hunger for a manifestation of what you just read electrify your spirit! Have some righteous anger over truths that have been dismissed or minimized in the past, and as a result have not manifested in your life!
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word. Psalm 119:160-161
God’s Word is true, no matter what our intellect or our situation may report.
A sure way to lose faith and fail to experience a life that is fueled by the power of the Word is to be led by our senses.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; Proverbs 3:5
If you want the power, the burning and the trembling to cease (or to never be found), then reject anything in Scripture that isn’t verified via science, experience or common sense.
Yes, you must read the Bible and believe it, no matter what your circumstances or experiences or knowledge may be. God’s truth trumps all else—even supposed facts, proofs or testimonies.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
Throughout Scripture God defied common sense and brought man’s wisdom to nothing. We don’t have the capacity to grasp the mysteries of God in the natural, in our minds.
I dare you to read the Bible, be challenged by the impossible and refuse to doubt even for a moment. You will grow like a rocket!
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:18-22
2. DON’T REJECT IT.
We cannot reject the unpopular, difficult truths in Scripture. We must receive everything God’s Word communicates to us.
Today we are witnessing a tragedy in the church that I call Buffet Jesus. Jesus is the Word, according to Scripture, but his words are received in part instead of in full. Unpopular truths are passed by in favor of the sugary, more satisfying messages.
It is not possible to be a Biblical Christian if we only receive the parts of the Bible that are affirming, encouraging or uplifting. We can’t shut out the rebuke, discipline, judgment or severity of God because they don’t match our faulty worldview. When we do so, the entire counsel of God’s Word becomes compromised and tainted. Even the parts that are received are incomplete and were not meant to stand on their own.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13
Truth doesn’t only edify us. It corrects us. It troubles us. It judges us.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Too many refuse to be teachable due to their own pride or their rejection of anything that contradicts their picture of a perfect God. They shut down wisdom that threatens their utopia to their own detriment.
The Israelites rejected the way God was functioning when Moses was on the mountain (receiving the law, ironically enough) so they rejected him in favor of a man-made image. They fashioned the perfect God that fit their fleshly demands.
When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' Exodus 32:5-8
If we fashion our own golden calf, made up of compromised, incomplete and twisted truth, we are far from enjoying the fruit of a truly Biblical life.
3. ACCURATELY UNDERSTAND IT.
If we want to have the truth of Scripture manifest powerfully in our lives, we have to understand it. We must study and rightly interpret what it is saying.
It’s shocking how many verses are taught, declared and stood on completely out of context. It doesn’t make us evil people if we do this (if done in ignorance), but it does make us frustrated people!
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
For example, most people who I would connect with on a day to day basis would agree that God is the Healer and that we can experience divine health as Christians.
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, Psalm 103:2-3
So, it’s common to pray for the sick and to cry out to God for him to heal them. And, the result, most often, is that the person remains sick. This can cause the truth of Scripture to become discouraging. In fact, the enemy can even cause people to reject the truth about healing in favor of a substitute teaching that matches what they are experiencing. How deadly this is!
If we understand Scripture we will know that nobody in the New Covenant ever prayed for God to heal anybody! The Apostles simply did it! The command wasn’t to pray to God to heal the sick, it was for us to heal the sick!
He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Matthew 10:1
He gave them authority! So, we are to heal the sick, according to Scripture. When we pray for God to do it, that is contrary to the biblical protocol given to us.
Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:6-8
Jesus had to correct the misunderstanding of his disciples in Acts chapter 1:
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:4-8
Imagine the scenario: Jesus had just been slaughtered on the cross before their very eyes. Graves then opened up as previously dead people started moving about, the sun turned to darkness, the earth quaked—and then, a few days later, the previously unrecognizable, bloodied man had miraculously defied death and was standing before them!
You can imagine their passion and excitement. They were ready for their Champion to set up his Kingdom. However, they misunderstood how it would all unfold. Instead of telling them how he’d set up his Kingdom, Jesus told them to wait for the Promise—and then revealed that they would be establishing the Kingdom on the earth, not him!
Then he disappeared as the disciples were gazing into the heavens.
Today so many Christians are doing the same thing. We are gazing into heaven waiting for Jesus to do what Jesus is not going to do! In Acts chapter 1, the disciples transitioned into being apostles—sent ones. Jesus said something important on the cross, “It is finished.” He’s done. What else do we want him to do? He has defeated death, hell and the grave! Now WE are to move out and do what he empowered and commanded us to do!
If we don’t correctly understand this truth, we will be greatly frustrated and will wonder why the Bible doesn’t seem to work powerfully in our lives.
Another example of misunderstanding Scripture to our own detriment can be found in Romans 8.
How often have we attempted to encourage a fellow Christian with verse 28? Maybe they have gone through a divorce or lost their job. The go to verse for so many is actually some of the worst counsel that you could give them!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
A correct understanding of Scripture would result in quite a different bit of counsel. Verse 28 begins with the word and. That should clue us off. That verse is contingent on the preceding truth. Something else must happen in order for all things to work together for good. Let’s back up and take a look:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. Romans 8:26-27
When we are weak, we are instructed to groan in the Spirit! That is the counsel we should be giving to people who are going through difficulty! It’s in the place of groaning intercession where all things work together for good. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is praying through us perfectly in accordance with God’s will. When that happens, our love of God intensifies (just try it!) and God’s will becomes ours as we agree in prayer. We don’t know what we are agreeing with, but it doesn’t matter. Our trust in in God and he can do as he wishes. He then makes all things work!
One more example can be found in Matthew. Have you ever called a prayer meeting and only had two or three people show up? In order to encourage the few faithful who showed up, you probably pulled out Matthew 18:19-20:
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:19-20
I’ve done that myself, though I’ve always been a bit troubled by the principle. If he’s there where two or three are gathered, is he distant when I’m alone?
So, I studied it out and found something quite interesting. Those verses aren’t about prayer or prayer meetings at all.
They are about church government!
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' Matthew 18:15-16
How interesting! Jesus is saying that he has our back when we go with two or three witnesses to deal with someone who is in sin and unrepentant! He’s giving us a protocol for church government!
I could go on and on with other examples, but I believe you understand the point. If we function with great intentions but contrary to Scriptural truth, we are bound to be disappointed with the results.
4. EXPERIENCE REVELATION OF IT.
It’s one thing to believe the Bible. It’s an entirely different thing to have a supernatural revelation of it.
We all must live and walk and pray in the Spirit, night and day, so we can have a never ending supply of revelation.
This is where so few Believers will go. If we aren’t living in the Spirit, we can’t presume to fully understand or believe the Word of God.
Check this out:
Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power (MIRACULOUS FORCE) through his Spirit (PNEUMA: BREATH, WIND, SPIRIT) in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend (SEIZE, POSSESS, APPREHEND) with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (DOESN’T EXIST IN THE VISIBLE REALM, OR EVENIN THE DREAM REALM), that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (WOW! FILLED, FULLNESS OF GOD!) 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power (MIRACULOUS FORCE) at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen
This miraculous force isn’t there to enhance what we see in the visible realm, or to give us the ability to dream a little bit more deeply…it’s there as a burning, blowing Spirit to take us on a journey into the invisible, supernatural realm.
Did you notice one of the most powerful miracles known to man revealed in verses 18 and 19?
We can comprehend and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge! Wow!
This means that we can have a revelation of God that goes well beyond our mental, logical limits. Verse 20 goes on to say that he’ll do more than we could ask or think according to the power within us.
There is an invisible, supernatural realm that we are called to live in continually. When we do, the Word of God will transform us over and over again.
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17
The word word (as in, word of Christ) is translated rhema. Rhema is the voice of God, the message of God that is delivered in real time. It’s God talking directly to us! Our faith isn’t increased as we simply read the Bible. It’s increased as we hear God’s voice, and that happens as we live in the Spirit!
…and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:17-18
Again, the word word (which is the sword of the Spirit) is translated rhema. It’s no mistake that the next part of the armor is praying at all times in the Spirit. When we live and pray in the Spirit, the rhema word of God will come to us, our faith will increase and we will advance with a powerful sword.
When the logos (the living, written Word) collides with the rhema as it’s stirred by the Spirit of God, our live in the Word will be alive, vibrant and active!
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
I’ll leave you with the passage I started with. Read it. Believe it. Understand it. Don’t resist it. Pray for overwhelming revelation of it. Let God rock you as the Holy Spirit burns through you. I pray that you will find yourself in the Spirit on the Lord’s day—and that his Word will transform your life!
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. Revelation 1:10-19